Minimizing gaps and inequality and reducing poverty are among the Labor and Social Services Ministry’s top priorities for the coming two years, Minister Haim Katz said Monday.He made the remarks at a Knesset Finance Committee meeting on the ministry’s two-year budget, which will stand at some NIS 8.98 billion in 2017 and NIS 9.56b. in 2018.“We touch upon every third citizen in the State of Israel,” Katz said.“Expanding the responses and the social services for the benefit of citizens are essential.”In 2016 every fifth family was registered with the ministry, accounting for 15.7% of the population, or about 1.35 million people. Nearly a third of those registered were aged 65 and up, and half were over 75.Katz presented his ministry’s budget to the committee panel, which includes at the forefront a new NIS 300 million plan to integrate unemployed people into the workforce by providing them with jobs caring for needy elderly.The innovative program, which is set to launch in 2017, would see unemployed people receive a pay slip for their work visiting with and providing company to some 30,000 lonely elderly over the age of 84 for an hour each day.In addition, the ministry will allocate NIS 700m. toward building new day-care facilities – an estimated 107 new centers each year – as well as an additional NIS 280m. for subsidizing the facilities for working parents.The minister also said he would allocate NIS 100m. toward providing care for people with autism.The budget also calls for an additional NIS 170m. for children and youth at risk, NIS 110m. for community services for the elderly and NIS 80m. for adding 300 new positions in municipal welfare departments.“We want to give people fishing poles, and in the 2017-2018 budget the ministry will work to relieve the economic hardships by developing and extending programs for empowering and integrating people with employment barriers into the workforce, the massive construction of day-care centers to lower the cost of living and promoting initiatives to ensure food security,” Katz said.